Among the three categories listed by the apostle John in First John 2:15-17, the one that is least discussed is the pride of life. It is easy to focus on the lust of the flesh and eyes because they are so readily apparent and common among us. However, the pride of life is no less prominent in our world; it is simply more easily hidden or overlooked because we don’t ascribe it as readily.
The word “pride” carries the definition of arrogance, empty assurance, or trust in self. One commentator described the term as it is used in this passage as, “arrogant assumption.” When one considers the third category of worldliness and sin, it is centered on the arrogance toward life; the attitude of man toward the physical world and his place in it that skews his relationship with God and man’s willingness to serve him. Consider three distinct areas wherein man exhibits the pride of life.
Pride in the Manner of Life
This type of arrogance toward life is seen in the, “God does not have the right to tell me what to do” mentality. People often exhibit this level of pride when faced with decisions where God has given one set of directions, but their desire is down another road. They then argue in their arrogance that they are the ones living on this earth, their body is their own, and nobody has the right to tell them what they can or cannot do with it.
While it is true that man is responsible for making his own decisions, it is also true that wise and humble men will look to God for direction. Solomon wrote, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Pro. 1:7), and, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Pro. 16:18). When man takes pride in his own manner of life, he falls prey to the wickedness of this world and moves himself from the side of God.
Pride in the Quality of Life
Another avenue of the pride of life is seen in man’s determination to maintain his style and level of life. There are many people unwilling to follow God and keep his commands because it would mean a change in lifestyle and the quality of life to which they have become accustomed. These individuals show their arrogant adherence to the physical over the spiritual by their unwillingness to lose what they have gained on this earth. They follow the example of the rich young ruler, who went away sorrowful without fulfilling the command of the Lord because he had great possessions (Mat. 19:22). Unfortunately, many in today’s world, and even a number of Christians, allow this measure of pride to stand in the way of complete service to God. They are unwilling to part with the social status previously obtained, the level of seniority at their job, or the level of income they currently receive; even though the retaining of those things keep them from living and devoting themselves to God as he has commanded. Physical lifestyle and possessions are of the greatest importance.
It was about those of this mindset that Jesus said, “Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mat. 19:23). Any man, who shows arrogance toward his quality of life on this earth, has no understanding of the magnitude of difference between life on this earth and the quality of life in eternity for the righteous.
Pride in the Possession of Life
One of the greatest fears for many people, sadly even those within the church, is the loss of their physical existence. We face the prospect of death as the greatest tragedy that can befall an individual; and many will do anything to extend the number of years they spend on this earth. Such is truly the arrogance of life.
When man treats life as the most important thing, and the loss of the physical body as the greatest tragedy of life, he has shown a complete lack of understanding of life beyond this physical world. Certainly the loss of a life that is unprepared to stand in judgment before God is the greatest tragedy one could endure. Not because of death, but because that person has not lived a righteous life before God and now will have to answer for their deeds without redemption.
However, when the loss of the life of a righteous soul is considered, it should not be approached with fear or anger, but joy and peace that the soul is at rest for eternity. How sad it is to see members of the body of Christ approach the death of a faithful servant as the worst thing that could have happened, or an unfair end to a short life. Instead, they should be rejoicing that another soul is safe and secure for all eternity.
Pride in the possession of life keeps us from the joy of righteous living, the peace of a prepared life, and the hope in the promise of eternal security. Jesus said, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” (Mat. 16:25). This physical existence is not what is important and to place the keeping of it as a priority above all else is folly, our greatest priority is using every day in service to God to the best of our ability.
The pride of life is a dangerous pitfall for mankind. It ties one to the physical view of life and keeps man from fulfilling his greatest calling: service to God. As we preserve our vigilance against the pitfalls of this world, we must never forget to include the pride of life in our area of watchfulness, for it can bring us down to destruction as quickly as any other sin.